A-Yokai-A-Day: Sazae-oni

Today’s yokai is a demon born out of a sazae, or a sea snail. I’ve included a lovely little tale at the end for those of you going out as pirates this Halloween!

And don’t forget — today is your final chance to submit your answers for the Hyakki Yagyō poster contest! I’ll announce the winner late tomorrow night, when I post the final yokai.




Sazae-oni are born a few different ways; once is when an ordinary sea snail turns 30 years old. According to ancient Chinese lore, animals transform into different animals (sparrows become clams, rats become quails), and so why not snails becoming oni, right? Another way is if a lustful young woman is thrown into the sea, she will transform into a sea snail, and then if she happens to live a very long time she will transform into a sazae-oni as well. These monsters appear on moonlit nights, dancing on the surface of the sea like exotic dancers or dragons.

According to a legend from the Bōsō penninsula (Chiba prefecture), sazae-oni often travel disguised as lone, wandering women who stop at inns to eat the innkeepers.

Sazae-oni Print

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In the Kii penninsula (Wakayama and Mie prefectures), one legend tells of a band of pirates who spotted a woman drowning in the water one night. They rescued her (not out of the goodness in their hearts, mind you, but out of the badness in their pants…), and that night every pirate on the ship had their way with her. Unfortunately for the pirates, she was actually a transformed sazae-oni, and one by one she bit off the testicles of every pirate on the boat. By the end of the night she had all of their testicles, and the desperate pirates traded away all of their pirates’ gold to the sazae-oni to buy their balls backs. Yoho!

Are you interested in yokai? Can’t get enough of strange Japanese culture? Then you should check out my book, The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, on Amazon.com and learn the story behind over one hundred of these bizarre monsters!

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